Whole Foods Market Launches New Giving Effort

Whole Foods/Facebook

While charitable donations are down, online giving -- especially when goosed by social networking programs -- is growing fast. And just in time to cash in on the busiest time of year for gifts, Whole Foods Markets is launching a new cause-related campaign to leverage the trend.

The new effort from the Austin, Texas-based food retailer encourages shoppers to share their New Year's resolutions in stores and via a Facebook application, generating buzz for three national non-profit food organizations. Themed "This is my year to ... ," the effort encourages shoppers to either Know Where My Food Comes From, which will direct funds to the Non-GMO Project; Choose Organic, with the goal of increasing the current market for organic food from 3% to 10% by the end of 2010; or Share My Plate, which provides sustainable food for needy people.



The effort will funnel $10,000 each to the three groups, with an additional $10,000 to the group that gets the most votes on Facebook's thisismyyearto page. Marketing partners include Health Magazine and Odwalla juices.

The campaign will run through January, and in-store and Web promotions will also highlight such healthy mantras as Eat My Greens, Know My Food, Learn to Cook, and Make Simple Changes.

The campaign highlights major changes in good-deed marketing this year. A recent poll from the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that consumers are giving less, with one-third of the 395 charities it surveyed expecting donations to fall by 10% or more by year's end, and 21% estimating donations will decline by smaller amounts. The journal reports that the Salvation Army, for instance, is 8% off in gifts to its Red Kettle Drive, while Catholic Charities USA is running $2.6 million behind its goal to raise $7.1 million by yearend.

But online charitable donations -- which peak on Dec. 31 -- are up significantly, Tad Druart, a spokesperson for Convio, which makes software for nonprofits, tells Marketing Daily. A recent Convio study finds that online holiday giving may exceed $4 billion, with 111 million adults planning an online gift -- up from 89 million a year ago.

All told, it says, 63% of online consumers plan to donate to charities online, up from 51% in 2008. And while 20% say they are still undecided about the size of their gifts, they are increasingly attuned to social media efforts, like the one Whole Foods is kicking off. Some 25% say that what family and friends say on social media and in personal emails influences the charities they support.

Top causes, he says, continue to be human and social services organizations, including food banks and homeless shelters, followed by faith-based or disease and health service organizations, followed by animal welfare groups.

The study found that younger Baby Boomers (44 to 53) and Gen Xers (30 to 43) are most likely to give online, at 66 and 65% respectively, followed by seniors (65-plus) at 60%, and Older Boomers (54 to 64) at 59%.

Druart expects to see a flurry of requests, gearing up for the Dec. 31 cutoff. "Most people don't itemize, so it's really a mental deadline. Unfortunately, these gifts -- with an average of about $69 per donation -- aren't going to be enough to make us for losses in traditional channels," he says. "But we are seeing that the use of tools like Facebook and Twitter, particularly when it comes to event fund-raising, such as Relay for Life, are very successful. Americans get requests from multiple channels -- phone calls, direct mail, family and friends. It makes sense that they want to give through different channels, too."

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